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Federal Advice For Metro

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By Patrick Madden

Next week, the National Transportation Safety Board will hold a three-day hearing on last year’s metro crash that killed 9 people.

But the NTSB is already taking action. The safety board says its adding "subway" rail car design to its list of "most wanted" safety improvements.

The NTSB says it makes no sense for the federal government to regulate the safety standards for railroad passenger cars but not for subway and light rail cars.

Board director Deborah Hersman says the red line crash showed ‘stark difference' in federal oversight. At the crash site near the Maryland-D.C. border, Amtrak trains run side-by-side with Metro trains.

"On one side of the fence there are crash-worthiness standards; on the other side of the fence, there are no standards," says Hersman.

The NTSB has recommended for years Metro replace or retire its oldest rail cars. It says the cars have a tendency to ‘crumple’ or collapse into each other during a crash, which is what happened last June.

The board’s list of recommendations are advisory only, and at this point, there is no federal authority that sets safety standards for local subway systems.

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